Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Written in February, thought I'd visit dVerse Poetics: Your family hiSTORY and share this little piece of myself: 
Universal Studios Lot, Instagram by sessepien 
He was born before the turn of the 20th century in a small town
near the coast of Sicily. Little is known to us of his early childhood.
As a young man, he sailed on Italian merchant ships, where he
learned to weave and repair nets. In the early 1900s he immigrated,
coming through Ellis Island into New York City then on to
Chicago–where he saw his share of crowded tenements with
common bathrooms–before finding his way to and making
his home in a small mill town in southeastern Vermont.
I don’t know exactly when or where he met his
wife Anna; only that she was from Milan in northern
Italy.  Mixing northern Italians with Sicilians is like
mixing oil and water–opposites–yet their union worked.
They raised seven children, two sons: John and Joseph, and
five daughters: Clementina, Marguerita, Mary, Rose and Virginia
When we met for the first time, he was in his late sixties.
By the time he was in his 80’s, he’d lost both legs to diabetes .
He passed just four months shy of his 93rd birthday.
I still remember him sitting in the wheel chair in his kitchen,
hands busy weaving yarn into beautiful net scarves just as he’d
learned to weave those fishing nets so many years ago.
He never truly mastered English, except for cursing,
which for some reason was always perfectly understandable.
He had nine natural grandchildren and one step-grandson.
He’d keep Hershey bars in his top drawer for when we
would visit, and in the summer would give us quarters
for ice cream.

I've often wondered of the courage and determination
to come to a new country, leaving family and everything
you knew behind, and despite limited skills and language
barrier– marry, raise a family, and survive such adversity.

Stubborn, tough, humble and proud—that was my grandfather.

© Ginny Brannan 2014
Turn of the Century, 11th Avenue, NYC
Grandchild number seven, only child of his oldest, Tina, I carry the names of my youngest aunt and my grandmother. My Grandpa Joe, Aunt Ginny and I had the unique privilege of sharing the same birthday, and for many years we would all gather at grandpa’s house to celebrate. Some time later when I got married, I would discover that my dear father-in-law also shared this special day.  
                     Grandpa passed in 1980, the year before I married.
                     Aunt Gin in 1991, the year we bought our house,
                     My father-in-law passed early the next year.
Not a February 24th passes that I don’t remember and raise a glass to all of them.

Grandpa "Giuseppe" and me
February 24th, 1975

An immigrant's story, written and shared on 2/18/14 at  Magpie Tales #207


  1. wow...thanks for telling his story...it takes a lot to make that decision to leave everything behind and strike out to a new life and new opportunity...it is a risk...you dont know what you will face when you get there....

    1. i still feel much the same..marveling at what it took...that last line says much of it...and some make it...your grand had quite a story ginny...

  2. It sounds like he was very content and lived a simple life... funny about the cursing.

  3. I enjoyed your story about your grandfather..I visited Ellis Island not too long ago and it was rather interesting and a bit haunting as so many people came here with a dream in their hearts. It takes a brave soul to venture so far away.

  4. What a fascinating story Ginnie! So very, very worth that honorary annual toast to them!

  5. This is a wonderful story and tribute to your grandfather. They made tough men back then. We could use a few more like that today.

  6. A wonderful and moving story; I’ll join you in that toast!

  7. Awe, I always love coming here. Charming family history and the names they gave their girls …. I adore! It is men like him that made our country what it is. You are blessed to have known him.

  8. I love it! I love family history, and I love italy- my own family came over in the 1900-1910 years, not sure when exactly. This was a lovely piece, and really resonated with me. great work! here's to family!

  9. Ah, this is a lovely remembrance, Ginny. I admire your grandfather from your words.

  10. I love the family history and picture Ginny ~ It takes a lot of courage to come to a new country and raise a family ~ A lovely tribute to your grandfather, smiles ~ I wonder if you speak the language though ~

    1. Ah, I wish I did! I am not sure whether they considered it an embarrassment because they were being raised in America—my mom and her brothers and sisters understood the language, but actually spoke just enough to get by with my grandparents, and never passed it on to us.

  11. Sweet, real, wonderful...a great memoir and prose for the prompt! Some grandpas are just perfect!

  12. what a wonderful story ginny... i admire someone who travels and tries to find their way in the world...just told summerstommy as well... and sometimes to be successful in life, it needs a certain stubbornness... smiles

  13. It took a lot of courage to cross the ocean at that time.. More having ancestors who stayed, I guess they would have had the strength to courage to cross if they had needed... Amazing times - I wonder what immigration will do to the people who are moving now...

  14. There's such beauty in these memories and their retelling. A wonderful tale, Ginny.

  15. Wonderful story--I love the details of the Hershey bars and the perfect English swearing. (My birthday is Feb. 24 as well.) :)

  16. I missed this the first time around Ginny, so I'm glad to have found it this time. It's funny, we have a friend who is Northern Italian married to a Cicilian, and he talks about it in his big, loud Italian way. :o) But I'm sure you can imagine! What a wonderful bit of history.

  17. Your grand father's story is really amazing..thanks for sharing it:)

  18. their boldness, comes down to us through their bloodlines. A nice inheritance.

  19. It's hard to start over. Thank you for sharing his story. Wonderful.

  20. This is a wonderful tribute, Ginny...our country would be, literally, nowhere if brave souls like your grandfather hadn't brought their talents and tenacity to these shores. In addition to being such a talented poet, it seems you also have a sure gift for essays and prose work. This is wonderful writing, friend.
    Steve K.


Thank you for reading my poetry and sharing your thoughts.